Blu Aubergine Blog

QUICK BITE: Pizza a Taglio a Roscioli

Ah, pizza. Real Italian pizza. There are several ways to enjoy pizza, particularly in Rome. I adore pizza bianca, but that's for another time. Probably the way I eat pizza in Italy most frequently, and the easiest and quickest way to enjoy this Italian fast food, is pizza a taglio: pizza by the slice. Or, technically, by cut.

The Italian way to cut slices of pizza is not from a round pie, but rather from a long, rectangular slab of pizza, either made in a sheet pan tray, or cooked directly on the oven floor and hand-rolled out to a very oblong disc or an approximation of a rectangle. 

And it's often cut with scissors. That's right. It makes sense when you think about it. You point out how large or small a piece you'd like, and they literally cut you a piece to measure. It is then weighed and you pay by weight, so that pizzas that are loaded with lots of toppings, ranging from tuna and artichokes with mayo to chile pepper-parsley hot sauce to sausage and potatoes and porcini mushrooms...the more that is loaded on there, the more you pay per piece.

Giusto, no?

But what most expert chefs -- and eaters -- know is that often times, the simplest iteration of something, the purest form of the ideal, is the best. Roscioli  is a family-run business that's been around for decades. They've run what used to be a simple alimentari (specialty food store) since back in the '90s, when theirs was simply my local shop (that happened to carry Philadelphia cream cheese when none of the grocery stores did) -- an old reliable, if you will. With the new millenium, they ended up closing for a spell and completely remodeling to convert this into an upscale gastronomic temple to meats, cheeses, smoked fish, oils and vinegars...with an excellent restaurant and wine cellar added in for good measure.

Their bread bakery is down the street from their 'headquarters' and main restaurant (they've now expanded to include a local pizzeria nearby, and it seems they're always moving on to a new venture). This bread bakery is always busy and they have a great selection of classic Italian biscotti and pastries as well as their renowned bread and pizze (that's plural for pizza, kids). Their selection varies form day to day, but it's always delicious, and they always have the basics, which to me -- here, at least -- are the best. That's right, a simple pizza margherita ("plain" in American parlance), and in Rome what's referred to as pizza rossa ("red pizza") -- otherwise known as alla marinara, hold the oregano -- just tomato sauce, no cheese. The simplest of the simple. And in this case, the pizza dough and the tomato sauce are the only two ingredients you have. So they'd better be stellar.

Here you can see the specimen: a very thin, crackly crust. Blistered bubbles in the surface of the pizza dough itself, owing to extremely high temperatures of the pizza oven. Just a slick of tomato sauce and a brushing of olive oil to make the overall presentation glisten (one of my sayings regarding good food's appearance: it really shouldn't be matte). A sprinkling of Italian sea salt. And when you bite into the pizza, it needs some chew. Real, authentic, delicious pizza needs gluten to get that chewiness activated in the dough. And that's it. It couldn't really be more simple, though from the end result that's available out there, you'd think it would be one of the Italian (or otherwise) kitchen's greatest challenges. Roscioli rises to it, as do several other spots around Rome. I was just lucky enough to have Roscioli be my local. And I was also lucky enough to call Rome home, where a walk along the Tiber, pizza rossa in hand, is all in an afternoon.